Liz Truss pins hopes on US as she restarts her political life

Liz Truss might be making more trips to the US, where her economic views could find more sympathetic ears
Liz Truss might be making more trips to the US, where her economic views could find more sympathetic ears

The embodiment of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in America is contained within an imposing building a few minutes walk from Congress at the heart of Washington DC.

The Heritage Foundation does not just carry the flame of Reaganomics but also prides itself in defending the policies and ideology of the Iron Lady herself.

It was here, last month, that another former female Tory prime minister stopped by as she began to map out the path to a fulfilling life after the pressures and pitfalls of Downing Street.

Liz Truss’s visit to Heritage has spawned ongoing discussions about future work together. It also speaks to a wider interest in America in her quest for political rehabilitation.

According to friends and former colleagues who have talked to The Telegraph, Ms Truss is likely to make many more trips across the pond this year, tapping into old congressional contacts and think tank allies.

Her tax-slashing economic agenda that imploded here in the autumn still chimes with Right-wing US circles, so the argument goes, meaning the defence of her principles she is said to be so keen to mount may be more easily done stateside.

Liz Truss has already been to the US since resigning as prime minister
Liz Truss has already been to the US since resigning as prime minister

“In many ways Liz’s natural political constituency is Reaganite centre-Right conservatives in the US - proper free market types,” one figure by Ms Truss’s side in Downing Street said, referencing the tax-cutting former US president Ronald Reagan.

“She feels great affinity to conservative economic thinking in the States - which is more classically conservative than here in Britain, given we’ve moved so far away from true blue economics here. Her arguments have more willing ears and minds in the US.”

The hook-up with Heritage should be no surprise. Ms Truss's connection to the think tank goes back years and stretches across successive cabinet minister posts.

Back in April 2019, when Ms Truss was just 14 days into her role as international trade secretary, it was Heritage that was picked to host her speech about the need for a US-UK trade deal.

“It’s fantastic to be here at the Heritage Foundation today, an organisation which gave so much impetus to the Reagan administration in the 1980s, unleashing enterprise and opportunity, and is now very much at the forefront of Republican thinking as you move into the next decade,” Ms Truss told the room.

The think tank in turn has rushed to the defence of Ms Truss, ousted after six weeks when interest rates surged following her “mini” Budget.

“Liz Truss Lesson for Conservatives: Never Surrender to Left,” read one headline on the think tank's website, insisting she should have stuck by her original tax cuts.

A friend of Ms Truss said of her drop-by last month: “Heritage are her political soulmates. It was a catch-up, ruminating on the future.”

But it is not just Heritage with whom Ms Truss has links in the States. A ministerial past littered with link-ups in America offers clues for other possible ventures.

One could be a gathering of the great, the good and the moneyed of conservative America held every year on a privately owned island off the east coast of Georgia.

The guest list at the American Enterprise Institute’s World Forum, held on Sea Island every April and strictly off the record, is always closely guarded.

But Ms Truss reportedly attended in 2019 and, according to well-placed sources, pushed hard to go there again as foreign secretary in 2021, before the idea was quietly dropped.

Interest in that world is already confirmed since Ms Truss stepped back. During the same Washington trip she dropped in on Heritage, the former prime minister attended the International Democrat Union forum.

Two politicians considering a tilt at next year's Republican presidential nomination - Donald Trump’s former vice-president Mike Pence and Texas senator Ted Cruz - were listed as speakers.

Ms Truss’s interest in the US was seen in private and public during her ministerial career.

During a trip in Sept 2021, having just been handed the Foreign Office by Boris Johnson, it is understood Ms Truss pushed hard to join for the White House visit.

She lobbied Mr Johnson to be included in the small UK delegation for the Oval Office meeting with Joe Biden, the US president, and was gleeful when victorious, sources familiar with the planning said.

A photograph of Ms Truss, Mr Johnson and Mr Biden, gesticulating at the then foreign secretary, in the Oval Office was later posted on her Instagram, with the others in the room cropped out.

As foreign secretary, Liz Truss pushed hard to be included in Boris Johnson's Oval Office meeting with Joe Biden
As foreign secretary, Liz Truss pushed hard to be included in Boris Johnson's Oval Office meeting with Joe Biden

Indeed, even the briefest of glances at the former prime minister’s Instagram account shows more than a dozen US-themed snaps uploaded.

Ms Truss, dark glasses on, marching past New York skyscrapers; Ms Truss enjoying a whisky after the US tariff lifted; Ms Truss smiling near the Washington Monument near an engraving reading “freedom”.

Kirsty Buchanan, who served as Ms Truss’s special adviser in the Ministry of Justice, said the former prime minister’s political identity and ideology is a natural fit for the US.

“I always thought when she left office that the next time she would pop up would be in the US in a pro-growth think tank. So I’m not remotely surprised she’s thinking of that,” said Ms Buchanan.

“She’s always been a very pro-Transatlantic, free-marketeer, optimistic, go-getter type that Americans love. It is just very Liz.”

Another possible place she could crop up is at the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy DC think tank with a focus on old alliances. Ms Truss gave a speech there last March.

But that poses a challenge - one that runs beneath not just her eyeing-up of America but all decisions about what moves to take after Downing Street: Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson also has his eye on America. He is due to give a speech at the Atlantic Council next month. He is also making £250,000 a pop for attending US business conferences - a price Ms Truss’s friends privately admit she could not demand.

Lord Darroch hosted both Mr Truss and Mr Johnson in Washington when he was the British ambassador there and suspects among Americans there may be more interest in the latter.

“It would be entirely understandable for Liz Truss to turn to America for rehabilitation. There is a strong and vocal constituency there for low tax and small government policies, epitomised by the Tea Party faction in the Republican Party,” said Lord Darroch.

“But she would need to be realistic about her profile over there. Boris Johnson is the current poster boy for British Conservatives in America, and to the extent that Ms Truss is known at all, it is for the shortest premiership in British history and the economic chaos on her watch.”

Departure from Downing Street leaves more time for travel. The Telegraph understands Ms Truss spent a week in Bahrain over Christmas with her family. Yet the life of an MP - Ms Truss has represented the seat of South West Norfolk since 2010 and has said she will stand again at the next election - also means a lot of time in Parliament.

A group of around two dozen of her MP supporters this week launched a pro-growth caucus, sharing drinks and gossip on Tuesday night in a gathering also attended by Ms Truss.

“She seemed to be in good spirits,” one former minister there said. “There is a big part of our party that believes in tax cuts. The group is a way of making sure we don’t lose sight of that.”

That tension, between backbenchers pushing for tax cuts despite what happened last autumn and Rishi Sunak’s ministers focussing on reducing inflation instead, will only grow as the March 15 Budget approaches.

That fight, however, will be led by others. For Ms Truss, the road to political redemption looks set to include more than a few stop-offs in the States.